No Time to Waste on Food Waste
Canadian Packaging editor George Guidoni reflects on how we can reduce food waste in the December 2019 issue.
December 4, 2019
For all the righteous condemnation the topic of global food waste generates in media headlines from time to time, it remains a stubborn reminder of how little progress has really been done to date. It’s not just the sheer absurdity of 1.3 billion pounds of perfectly good food being wasted each year while millions around the world are starving.
It’s also the enormous carbon footprint such waste represents.
According to the United Nations’ agency FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), “Globally, if food waste could be represented as its own country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind China and the U.S. The resources needed to produce the food that becomes lost or wasted has a carbon footprint of about 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide.”
The good news is that food waste it does not have to reach full-blown crisis proportions from which there is no return. In fact, a reasonable framework for how to go about it already exists, in the form of a massive new report released earlier this year by the World Resources Institute in Washington D.C. Sponsored by The Rockefeller Foundation, the Reducing Food Loss and Waste report should really be “must reading” for anyone concerned about this issue, which is every bit as pressing as ocean plastic waste and many other environmental failings.
Due to space limitations, we can only provide you a few key recommendations that the report proposes as part of a broader action plans, but they certainly provide a good starting platform for governments, industry, academia and public to rally behind:
1. Develop national strategies for food waste reduction.
2. Create national public-private partnerships.
3. Launch a “10x20x30” supply chain initiative bringing together the world’s 10 biggest food retailers and providers to each engage with 20 of their priority suppliers to halve rates of food waste by 2030
4. Reduce smallholder losses by farmers in reducing losses, creating access to markets for smallholders, and improving storage solutions.
5. Launch a “decade of storage solutions” by making food storage technologies ubiquitous, affordable and climate-friendly.
6. Shift consumer social norms, as to make it a norm for high-income countries and cities everywhere so that wasting food becomes unacceptable.
7. Go after emissions reductions. To date, fewer than a dozen countries have included food loss and waste reduction in their NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) calculations.
8. Scale up financing for many of promising solutions to reduce food loss and waste, including investments by a wider suite of financiers through grants, venture capital and commercial investments.
9. Overcome the data deficit to better to understand the scale and scope of the food loss and waste challenge, while identifying hot-spots, honing reduction strategies, and monitoring progress.
10. Advance the research agenda.
As the report sums up, “Successfully halving food loss and waste would close the gap between food needed in 2050 and food available in 2010 by more than 20 per cent … and it would lower greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 gigatons per year by 2050, an amount more than the current energy- and industry-related emissions of Japan.
“The size of the prize is huge. So, too, must be the action to seize it.”